Five women in candy-colored frocks covered with tulle, chiffon, and decorative doodads greet our eyes at the start of Chewing, a new dance by Zephyr artistic director Michelle Kranicke. The 50-minute piece seems to start with the finished product of food prep–in this case, prettily wrapped bonbons–and work forward to the process of consumption and backward to the labor of creation. The eager opening section, set to sound artist Charles Amirkhanian’s cheerful “Walking Tune,” is highly kinetic, with lots of falling over, sliding, kicking, lunging, and jumping; the dancers’ wide-open eyes and mouths suggest greed. Later, patting one’s own body hints at peristalsis while retching with a hand to the mouth turns into smacking the palm with the lips and blowing a kiss–or maybe kissing someone off. Few phrases in Chewing are this literal, however; mostly this is a very abstract, often lighthearted (thanks in part to Heidi Datker’s clever costumes) and even humorous meditation. Inspired by Laura Schenone’s book A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of American Women Told Through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances, the piece closes with an oddly beautiful section in which the dancers make their way laboriously across the floor in contorted, crablike ways that are somehow also dignified (Thomas Tallis’s moving music helps). Opens Thu 5/19, 8 PM. Through 5/21: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, 773-489-5069, $17 in advance, $20 at the door.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Erika Dufour.